The Co-Directors are Professor Pamela Snow and Associate Professor Tanya Serry. Other academic members of the team include Dr Nathaniel Swain (Senior Lecturer Learning Science and Learning Engagement), Dr Tessa Weadman (Lecturer English Literacy and Pedagogy), Eamon Charles (SOLAR Lab Academic Intern), and Dominic Eyre (Project Coordinator Bertalli Family Foundation).
Professor Pamela Snow
Pamela is a Professor of Cognitive Psychology in the School of Education. She is a registered psychologist, having originally qualified in speech-language pathology, and is a Life Member of Speech Pathology Australia.
While her research continues to span various aspects of risk in childhood and adolescence, Pamela has maintained a core focus on the role of oral language competence as an academic and mental health protective factor throughout childhood and adolescence. She is also strongly interested in applying evidence in the language-to-literacy transition in the early years of school.
Pamela has research links with the education, welfare and justice sectors, and has over 200 publications in a wide range of international journals, book chapters, monographs and research reports. She is frequently called upon to address education, health, welfare, and forensic audiences, and in 2017, Pamela was a member of the National Year 1 Literacy and Numeracy Panel, convened by the then Federal Minister for Education, the Hon. Simon Birmingham.
Professor Tanya Serry
Tanya is a Professor (Literacy and Reading) in the School of Education.
Her research interests centre on the policy and practices of evidence-based reading instruction and intervention practices for students across the educational lifespan. She is particularly interested in addressing the social gradient that exists for students’ reading capacity as well as the experiences of parents, educators and allied professionals who engage with the Science of Reading.
After initially qualifying in speech-language pathology, Tanya went on to complete a Masters in Applied Linguistics and a subsequent PhD. She is the recent past editor-in-chief of the Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties and currently serves on the editorial board. She is also an elected board member of the Ethics Board for Speech Pathology Australia. She is an active researcher and a member of a number of interdisciplinary research teams both within and external to La Trobe University.
Dr. Nathaniel Swain
Dr Nathaniel Swain is a Senior Lecturer for Learning Sciences and Learner Engagement in the School of Education and founder of the influential Think Forward Educators community.
Originally educated as a linguist and speech-language pathologist, Nathaniel became a classroom teacher and focused on how to translate research to classroom practice to maximise outcomes for all learners. Dr Swain has significant practical and theoretical experience, having worked as Head of Teaching and Learning, and Science of Learning Specialist / Instructional Coach across secondary and primary settings in Victoria.
Nathaniel has received several prestigious awards in his career including: the Learning Difficulties Australia Mona Tobias Award (2023), Engagement Excellence and Teaching Excellence Awards (2018), and the 2016 Three Minute Thesis Competition (Winner, Unimelb Grand Final; and Runner-Up, Asia-Pacific Final).
Dr. Tessa Weadman
Dr Tessa Weadman is a Lecturer in English, Literacy and Pedagogy in the School of Education at La Trobe University.
Tessa’s research interests span across preschool and school-age language and literacy development. Her PhD research focused on preschool oral language and emergent literacy development in early childhood settings, and the role of adult-child shared book reading and dialogic book reading. She developed the “Emergent Literacy and Language Early Childhood Checklist for Teachers” (ELLECCT) – a shared book reading observational tool that can be used to support teachers’ oral language and emergent literacy strategies.
With a background in speech-language pathology, Tessa continues to work clinically to support preschool and school age students with language, literacy and communication difficulties.
Eamon, the Academic Intern in the SOLAR Lab, supports key research projects across the team. Eamon also teaches a range of subjects across the School of Education, with a focus on language development and reading instruction.
He has completed a Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) and has worked as a paediatric speech-language pathologist and team leader across early childhood, primary and secondary education settings in regional Victoria.
As a result of his background in schools, Eamon has a keen interest in how evidence-informed practices in education can reduce inequities for young learners, particularly those in rural and regional areas and/or experiencing childhood adversity.
Professional Staff Members
Dominic Eyre is a Project Coordinator in the School of Education, providing project management for the suite of research initiatives linked to the Bertalli Foundation philanthropic donation.
He is a professional administrator with close to 20 years’ experience in in higher education administration working with senior executives across the institution. He has held senior management roles and lead teams in program management, strategy and planning, governance, academic services, executive support, and school management. He has worked across portfolios including the Office of the Provost, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and College of Science Health and Engineering.
He has expertise in project management, student load planning, course portfolio management, student administration, business planning, governance frameworks and policy advice.
Adjunct Staff Members
Tessa Daffern is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Education at La Trobe University, and an Education Consultant at Literacy Education Solutions. Tessa has contributed to education in various capacities for over 20 years: as a classroom teacher, teaching and learning specialist, academic, and literacy education advisor.
Her research and consultancy work are driven by her passion for empowering teachers to implement evidence-based literacy teaching. Tessa’s award-winning research has been disseminated in national and international peer reviewed and professional journals, book publications and at national and international conferences. Her main areas of research are in writing and spelling, with a focus on developing evidence-based teaching and assessment resources.
Tessa has served as an academic advisor for ACARA and NESA on curriculum reforms and she regularly delivers professional learning to teachers. In 2012, Tessa received a Recognition of Excellence Award for her teaching and leadership and was certified as a Highly Accomplished Teacher.
Dr Lisa Furlong is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Education and SOLAR Lab at La Trobe University. Her research interests focus on speech-language pathologists’ delivery of face-to-face and telepractice literacy interventions, policy and practice related to evidence-based reading and spelling instruction in primary school settings and, educators’ and allied health professionals’ engagement with the Science of Reading. Lisa’s research also focuses on technology-based speech therapy including mobile health applications and telepractice, to facilitate service access for children with communication difficulties.
Amanda Kranz is an experienced secondary teacher and specialist educator. She has worked in a range of school settings and, most recently, in private practice, where she specialises in provision of assessment, intervention and support services for students with dyslexia. She is undertaking a PhD project on strategies to support executive functions, including self-regulated learning, in a Tier 2 schools-based literacy intervention elective for adolescent learners.
Emina’s background is in speech pathology, education, child and adolescent psychiatry and public health. She is Head of English and Literacy at Docklands Primary School, and she trains student teachers and speech pathologists at a range of universities. Emina also works as a consultant, coach and professional learning provider in schools and systems across Australia. She is currently completing her PhD, researching the literacy skills of university students.
Helen Hughes is an experienced primary teacher with a particular focus on early years education. She has a strong background in working with children with autism and speech language difficulties, having spent time in intervention roles before becoming a teacher. Her interest in early language and literacy instruction has led her to undertake a PhD project exploring the implementation of scientifically based approaches to reading in primary schools.
Melanie Henry is undertaking PhD research in how secondary schools support adolescents with low literacy skills. Her interest in this area stems from her experiences as a secondary school teacher and leader working with both students and teachers in a range of mainstream and flexible school settings.
Olivia Mellahn is an experienced researcher with a focus on childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. She has over five years experience working with children with autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders, as well as numerous co-occurring disorders in a clinical research setting. She is undertaking her PhD, exploring the barriers to diagnosis and support in specific learning disorders.
Reid Smith is an experienced primary and secondary teacher, developing school-level curriculum from 3 year-old through to Year 12. He is currently the Co-CEO of Ochre Education, a not-for-profit working to share the expertise of teachers in order to provide greater equity of education for children. He is undertaking his PhD, investigating the role that background knowledge plays in reading comprehension.
Annie graduated as a speech pathologist in 2011. After working as a speech pathologist in schools for several years, she focussed her practice on organising and providing intensive literacy intervention at schools. She also supported schools to implement whole school research-based practices in early reading through a Response to Intervention framework. She currently works at Docklands Primary School as the Disability Inclusion Leader. She has a keen interest in the lived experience of educators teaching early reading. She is completing her PhD through the SOLAR Lab, exploring the impact of early reading teaching and assessment practices on teachers. Her research includes a historical review of reading models, and qualitative and quantitative studies.
Steve Flynn is a speech pathologist and classroom teacher with more than 30 years of experience working with children who have difficulty learning to read and spell. He has developed a program called Crack the Code which combines segmenting with a visual vowel hand sign system to help children achieve alphabetic mastery of English vowels. This has led him to undertake a PhD to explore the effectiveness of this technique when used to teach students (especially at-risk students) to read and spell.
Kristy Nihill is an educational and developmental psychologist and registered teacher. She is experienced in providing clinical and educational psychological assessments and treatment for various learning difficulties and mental health issues. Kristy has a unique blend of experience from working in multiple environments, including education, healthcare, and correctional sectors. Kristy’s interest in learning and deriving benefits from psychological treatment programs has led her to undertake a PhD project on learning adjustments to prison-based alcohol and other drug treatment programs for individuals with cognitive dysfunction.
Charlotte Peverett is an experienced special education teacher and has worked in a range of regional and rural schools, in a variety of teaching and leadership roles. Her interest in early language development and literacy instruction has led to her undertaking a Masters project on how to best teach literacy to students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities within a whole-school framework.
Caitlin Stephenson is an experienced speech-language pathologist (SLP) and has worked in a range of educational settings (mainstream, specialist, foundation to year 12), providing assessment of and intervention to students, capacity building for teachers, curriculum development, and co-delivery with teachers in the classroom. Her interest in early language and literacy instruction has led to her undertaking a PhD project mapping and defining the role of Australian SLPs in literacy.